Goal Crushed: Made 60+ New Foods/Drinks in 2020

Given that cooking was a common pandemic activity, I completely crushed my goal of making 20 foods or drinks that I had never made before. Instead of just 20, I made 62 new foods/drinks this year! Because of this, this blog post is ridiculously long (I’ve been working on it for a week!). You may want to make yourself a pot of tea or seven before you start reading this.

To recap, so far I’ve blogged about:

  1. chicken tortilla soup
  2. pistachio-walnut coffeecake
  3. gluten-free coffeecake
  4. cheesecake stuffed cupcakes
  5. rum punch
  6. Irish champ
  7. chicken breast dijon
  8. carrot cake
  9. Coq Au Sherry
  10. sherry potatoes
  11. sesame chicken
  12. caramel sauce
  13. caramel buttercream icing
  14. vanilla buttermilk cake
  15. sourdough starter
  16. tourtière 
  17. roasted Brussel sprouts

18. Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff

It doesn’t look particularly great in this photo, but it was decent, but not great. I used this recipe and I found it a bit too blend for my liking. Might look for another recipe to see if I can make a tastier version

19. Snickerdoodles

If I recall correctly, my niece made these for Christmas 2019 and they were pretty tasty, so when I was looking for something to make to bring to a socially distanced outdoor get together with a few friends (which we were allowed to do back in the summer), I decided to give these a try. They were pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself. And I appear to have forgotten to take a picture of them!

Here’s the recipe.

20. Naan

I love naan – I think it might be my favourite part of an Indian meal (and I *love* Indian food, so that’s saying a lot). I tried one recipe, but it didn’t turn out at all – it rose too much and was more like just a lump of regular bread. But I was not to be deterred, so I tried out another recipe and it was awesome.

Here’s my first attempt:

First attempt at naan

And here’s my much more successful second attempt:

Garlic naan

21. Mango Chutney

Since I was making naan, I figured why not also give mango chutney a try. It was pretty delicious.

Mango chutney

22. Garlicky Bourbon Chicken

This was exactly what it sounds like – chicken with a garlic bourbon sauce. And it was delicious!

Bourbon chicken
Bourbon chicken

23. Banana & Oat “Cookie”

This was a recipe that I got from Noom, for when you have a craving for a cookie but don’t want to eat a tonne of calories. Mush a banana, mix in 1/2 cup oats and some cinnamon, then form into cookies and bake on a cookie sheet at 350F for 18 mins. They were surprisingly tasty.

Banana "cookies"

24. One Pan Honey Lemon Chicken

Apparently one sheet pan dinners are a thing. This one was pretty tasty.

Sheet pan chicken

25. Cauliflower “Wings”

Also a thing are this vegetarian version of “chicken wings”. Basically it’s just breaded cauliflower. They were OK, but not really worth the effort. (I have been told that the deep fried version is better, but I do not own a deep frier. I think that’s a good choice for my arteries).

Cauliflower "wings"

26. Homemade Marshmallows

Homemade marshmallows have been on my list of things that I want to make for at least a decade. I really thought they would be super tough to make, but when I actually made them they were ridiculously easy! And sooooo tasty!

Making homemade marshmallows
Homemade marshmallows

Omg, it’s like heaven in your mouth!

27. Halibut on Spinach

Simple, and delicious. Recipe here.

Fish on a bed of spinach

28. Ginger Simple Syrup

Sometimes I find a recipe that requires to make something else to use in said recipe, so I get to make two new things (see caramel sauce and caramel buttercream icing above). This was the case with the making of ginger simple syrup, which I made to use in an apricot ginger whiskey sour (see below).

Homemade ginger simple syrup

29. Apricot Ginger Whiskey Sour

I love a whiskey sour. So when I saw this recipe for an apricot ginger whiskey sour, I knew I had to try it. I was not disappointed.

Homemade apricot ginger whiskey sour

30. Canned Pears

Last year, my friends Patricia and Mike had us over for dinner and they made a pear crisp that was do die for. It was the peary-ist thing I have ever eaten in my life! They told me about how there were pear trees in their neighbourhood that were under some powerlines, so no one owned them and thus anyone could go take the pears. Apparently these trees date back to a very old homestead. I asked them to tell me when the pears were ready for harvest this year so that I could go get some as I wanted to try canning them. So I was simply delighted in late August when I got a text from Patricia telling me that they had some pears for me! And when I got to their place, not only had they picked a bunch of pears, they also had picked a bunch of apples from the apple tress in the same area. We had a lovely socially distant visit in their backyard (which was allowed at the time!), which made it even better!

Canned pears and applesauce

31. Applesauce

I made applesauce from the apples that I got from Patricia & Mike. See above.

32. Strawberry Jam

Despite all the canning and jamming I’ve done over the past few years, I have never before made strawberry jam. Strawberry jam is like the most basic of all the jams, so I decided to rectify this by going to a berry farm out in Langley to get some strawberries to jam.

Strawberry Jam

33. Rye Bread

One of my less successful attempts this year was rye bread. It just didn’t rise as much as it should, so it was more dense than I would have liked.

Rye Bread

34. Bread made with Potato Yeast

Similarly, the bread I made using potato yeast also didn’t rise as much as I would have like. What is “potato yeast” you ask? See below.

Bread made with potato yeast

35. Potato Yeast

Potato Yeast

Since so many people were into baking during the early pandemic, there was a shortage of yeast in stores. I had some yeast already, but when I read about how you can harvest yeast from potatoes and use that to bake, I thought that would be a fun thing to try. I managed to get the yeast concoction to grow and it appeared active, but as mentioned above, it didn’t rise the bread as much as I would have liked. I decided to give up on the potato yeast after that – I already had my sourdough starter to maintain and I had my store-bought yeast for doing other yeast-related baking.

36. Hot Buttered Rum

Hot buttered rum was a thing I’d heard about, but never tried before. You basically just muddle together butter and spices and put rum and hot water in it. I found it too greasy, but Scott loved it.

Hot buttered rum
Hot buttered rum

37. Jamaican Pigeon Peas and Rice

One of the great things I learned about during the pandemic was a little store in New West called Galloway’s. It totally looks like a hole in the wall that I never would have noticed if my friend Cheryl (a.k.a., Greg) had not told me about it. While discussing the flour shortage of the early pandemic (just like the above-mentioned yeast shortage), Cheryl told me about this amazing little store that has every kind of flour, and every kind of spice and dried beans you could ever want. Although had an ample supply of all purpose flour1, I needed some whole wheat flour to get my sourdough starter active enough, so off I went to Galloway’s and discovered that it is a baker’s heaven.

Fast forward to October and as I was browsing around Galloway’s I discovered pigeon peas. They peas LOOK LIKE THEY HAVE PIGEONS ON THEM!

Found Pigeon Peas at Galloways

So of course I had to buy them and then I found a recipe for pigeon peas and rice and it was super delicious.

Pigeon peas and rice

I didn’t use a Scotch bonnet pepper in it like the recipe called for though. I like spicy foods to an extent, but that is beyond my heat capacity. I used Thai chili peppers and that was sufficiently spicu for me.

38. Flourless Banana Oat Chocolate Chip Muffins

Flourless banana oat chocolate chip muffins

In searching for a healthy muffin recipe, I came across this one. They are mostly oats, bananas, and Greek yogurt. They were tasty, but kind of a hassle to make because you have to put all the ingredients in a blender and then you have to clean said blender. So I think I will continue to search for a healthy muffin recipe that is better suited to a lazy person who hates cleaning things. Open to suggestions.

39. Baked Oatmeal with Raspberries

Baked oatmeal with raspberries

A lot of my new recipes come from me getting  an ingredient for one recipe and then looking for other recipes with the same ingredient so I can use up the leftover ingredient. This is one such recipe. I told my sister I was looking for recipes that use Greek yogurt and she suggested this one, which she described as being “as if oatmeal and a muffin had a baby”. I tried it and all I could think was “I’d rather be having either a muffin or a bowl of oatmeal”. 

40. Greek Goddess Dressing

This is another one that found while looking to use up the rest of my Greek yogurt. It was OK, but I prefer the oil and vinegar salad dressing that I usually make. I appear not to have taken a photo of this one.

41. Labneh

Labneh
Labneh

This is yet another recipe that I found while looking to use up the last of my Greek yogurt and this one hit it out of the park! Labneh is a middle-eastern style soft cheese – it’s sort of like a bright and tangy cream cheese. You make it by straining Greek yogurt through a cheese cloth and, in this recipe, you roll the cheese up into little balls and put them in a jar with some olive oil and salt and pepper. The recipe also called for lemon zest and fresh herbs, which I didn’t have, so I just stuck with salt and pepper and it was fantastic! It was delicious on my homemade sourdough English muffins (see below) and I also want to try it on homemade bagels (which are on my “to try in 2021” list). I will definitely make this again – I’m thinking in the summer when I have fresh herbs from my garden it’s going to be out of this world!

42. Creme brûlée cookies

I can’t believe I totally forgot to blog about CyberCookies 2020! As you know, when I’m not with my family during Christmas baking time, we get together on a video call and bake together that way. The inaugural CyberCookies was more than a decade ago – 2009, to be exact. We also did some cyberbaking in the early pandemic, just because I wanted to spend some time with my family even though we couldn’t be together.

So when Christmas baking time came around this year, it was time for CyberCookies 2020! My mom and my sister were baking cookies for a cookie exchange that my cousin hosts. In a normal year, it would involve gathering at her place and tasting all the cookies and drinking hot chocolate and all sorts of merriment. This year, it was just a drop off the cookies and pick up the cookies thing. So while they were baking for that, I just baked some cookies for fun.

My mom made these “Lumps of Coal” cookies:

Lump of Coal cookies that my mom made

My sister made these coconut peanut butter balls:

Peanut butter balls that my sister made for the cookie exchange

And I decided to try a recipe that I got from the magazine that you get at the liquor store: creme brûlée cookies.

Creme brulee cookies

The cookies on their own, even before the frosting, were out of this world delicious. The frosting recipe called for Bailey’s Irish cream, which I didn’t have. But I did have cream and Irish whiskey, which is basically what Bailey’s is, so I just used that. Then the pièce de résistance is that you use a kitchen torch to caramelize the icing, like a creme brûlée. Also, it gave me an excuse to buy a kitchen torch!

And now we come to the meal prep kit portion of our list

I’ve always wanted to try those meal prep delivery kits, but in the Before Times I never could because they get delivered during the day and both Scott and I would be at work and not able to receive the package. Since we live in a condo without a concierge, it would end up being left outside the front door of our building and I don’t trust that it wouldn’t get stolen. But since I started working from home, I realized it was the perfect time to try them. All of the services offer a deep discount when you first sign up, so we decided to try each of the different services in turn. I figured at the very least I’d get some new recipe ideas. We tried Chef’s Plate, Good Food, and Hello Fresh. I’m planning to try Fresh Prep (which is a local Vancouver company that uses reusable cooler bags and picks up all the packing for recycling) next.

Overall, I did not love these kits. The amount of waste is upsetting. Almost all of the ingredients come in plastic containers (and we don’t have soft plastic recycling in my building). The pre-made sauces were too salty for my liking – and also, I wanted new recipes, so just giving me a pre-made sauce isn’t helpful. I can easily just go to the grocery store and buy a bottle of teriyaki sauce if I just wanted to have a too salty sauce on my good.

Also, I find the portion sizes a bit small and the calorie count a bit high. We usually ended up making our own salad to go with the meals because I’d be hungry after each just the meal that was provided. Plus, I love to have leftovers for lunch, so when I make dinner I typically make enough for leftovers. We never had leftovers from these kits.

The part I liked the least about these kits as that I had expected all the ingredients to be prepped and ready to go in the kit, but they actually require you to do *a lot* of the prep yourself, although even that was inconsistent. For example, in my first Chef’s Plate kit, the recipe included matchstick-style chopped carrots and the carrots came pre-chopped, but in my second Chef’s Plate kit, which also required matchstick-style chopped carrots, they just threw two whole carrots in the bag. Do you know how long it takes to chop carrots into that small of a size? More time than I care to spend when I have gone to the effort of buying a meal kit! I suppose if you weren’t an experienced cook, then these might be a helpful way to learn, but as someone who does a lot of home cooking, they aren’t that helpful.

In my opinion, they aren’t so much meal prep kits as they are a grocery delivery system where you just get the exact amount of ingredients you need. To me the main advantage of these kits is that you have less food waste – like, if you just need a small amount of a fresh herb, you don’t have to buy a whole bunch and then three quarters of it ends up going to waste.

Thus concludes my impromptu review of meal prep kits!

Now on to the new recipes that I got from said kits!

43. Bibimbap

This is by far my favourite recipe that we got from a meal prep kit. Bibimbap is a Korean rice bowl meal. When I’ve had this at a Korean restaurant, the server brought it to the table while it was very hot, cracked a raw egg into it right in front of you and then stirred it all up so the egg cooked from the heat of the bowl and the rest of the food. It was pretty cool. In this version they just have you put a hard-boiled egg in, which was also good. We liked this recipe so much that we went to H-Mart (a Korean grocery store) to buy the spices and sauce that go int the recipe and we’ve made it ourselves several time since.

Chef's Plate
This is the contents of the meal kit. Look how much freaking packaging there is!
Chef's Plate
Finished product. It was delicious!

44. Za’atar Chicken Bulgur Bowl

Za'atar Chicken Bulgur Bowl from a Hello Fresh meal prep kit

I don’t cook with bulgar often, so this was a fun one to try. It was pretty good, but probably not good enough for me to bother googling “what is in a Za’atar spice blend?” (the kit came with a pre-mixed spice blend) to make it again.

45. TexMex Turkey Poblano Pasta

This was a kit I didn’t even mean to get. I thought I’d clicked “skip week” so that I wouldn’t get any meal kits (as you can skip weeks with any of the meal kit companies if you don’t want kits on a given week), but apparently I hadn’t so they just shipped whatever the defaults were and this was one of them. I never would have picked this, as neither Scott nor I like cream-based sauces and I prefer whole wheat pasta to white pasta. I begrudgingly ate this as I didn’t want to waste the food, but it was definitely bland. Apparently I didn’t even bother to take a photo of it either.

46. Middle Eastern Spiced Chicken

Chef's Plate

This one was yummy. It used yogurt for a marinade for the chicken and for a garlic sauce (though the garlic sauce also included mayo and I think it would have been better with just yogurt). This one I did enjoy enough to google “what’s in a middle Easter spice blend?” so that I could make it again with my own ingredients.

47. Beef & Shiitake Burgers

These were tasty. We don’t make burgers a lot (if I’m craving a burger, I’ll usually just go to Burger Heaven!) and I’ve never made one with shiitake mushrooms in them. It also came with a miso may to put on it, which was tasty, if a bit salty.

Beef & Shiitake Burgers
Beef & Shiitake Burgers

48. Mediterranean Lamb Meatballs

I appear not to have taken a photo of these, but they were go. I don’t often cook lamb (come to think of it, I’m not sure if I have ever cooked lamb!) They were pretty good. Maybe I should cook lamb more often!

49. Goan-Style Haddock Curry

I also don’t cook fish that often (aside from the occasional salmon), so I was excited to try this one. It was yummy!

Haddock curry

50. Jerk Chicken with Caribbean Sweet Potato Fries and Creamy Coconut Slaw & Honey Dip

Jerk chicken, sweet potato fries, coleslaw

I really like this chicken, although cooking it was a challenge because the spice mix was so strong that when we cooked it, it filled the air and sent us both into coughing fits. Totally worth it though. The Caribbean sweet potato fries weren’t my favourite – they were a lot drier than non-Caribbean sweet potato fries. And honestly, I prefer plain old potatoes more than sweet potatoes anyway. Would definitely make the chicken and agains though (though probably without the coconut – didn’t add anything to the slaw, in my opinion)

Another now we come to the sourdough discard portion of the list:

When you are making sourdough starter, you have to throw out some of the starter ever time you feed it (otherwise it will grow exponentially!). Especially when I was trying to get the starter going and was feeding it daily (sometimes twice a day), I had a lot of discard. Because I hate wasting food, I looked for recipes where I could use the discard and found quite a few!

51. Sourdough biscuits

These were pretty good. Contain a lot more butter than one should probably eat, which is probably why they were so tasty. Recipe here.

Sourdough Biscuits

52. Herbed sourdough crackers

Sourdough Crackers

The first time I made these, when my sourdough starter wasn’t anywhere near active these were delicious. I rolled the dough through my pasta maker attachment of my KitchenAid mixer and they were so thin and crisp. When I tried them again when my sourdough starter was more active, the dough rose a little bit and ended up making it taste more like stale bread than crackers. Recipe here.

53. Sourdough crumpets

I didn’t have crumpet rings, but I used the lid rings from canning jars, which worked well. These looked just like real crumpets – and tasted awful. I think I used too much oil & butter and so they tasted so greasy. It was gross. I might try making them again some day with less oil butter. Recipe here.

Sourdough Crumpets
Sourdough Crumpets

54. Sourdough English muffins (plain and cinnamon raisin)

This recipe was a winner. I love English muffins and they freeze well, so making a batch of these and freezing them is a perfect way to use up my discard! I’ve made plain and cinnamon raisin, but the possibility for add ins is endless! Recipe here.

Sourdough English Muffins

55. Sourdough soft pretzels

The dough for these ended up being too soft, so when I dropped them in the boiling water, they completely lost their shape. Tasted great, looked terrible. Recipe here.

Sourdough Pretzels
Sourdough Pretzels

56. Sourdough waffles

My friend Jen B gave me this recipe when she heard I was looking for sourdough discard recipes. These are outstanding and they also freeze well, so I can make a batch and then freeze the extras and have my own homemade freezer waffles that are a million times tastier than Eggos. The only thing is you have to remember to start the batter the night before because it needs to sit for 6-12 hours. I appear not to have taken any photos, which is funny because I’ve made them several times.

57. Sourdough blondies

These were sooooo delicious.

Sourdough blondie

58. Sourdough brownies

These were next level delicious. They are very rich and sourdough starter gives them the perfect amount of tanginess. I made a batch to share with friends when we got together for socially distanced backyard get together (back when such things were allowed) and then I made them again for Christmas. I appear to have forgotten to take a picture either time. 

59. Sourdough cinnamon rolls

I was pretty happy with how these turned out. The cream cheese icing really makes them, imho.

Sourdough cinnamon rolls
Sourdough cinnamon rolls
Sourdough cinnamon rolls

60. Sourdough cornbread

Sourdough cornbread in a cast iron skillet

This was pretty good.

61. Sourdough rye bread

Like my regular rye bread, this just didn’t rise very well.

Rye bread

62. Sourdough bread

And finally, the thing that I was actually creating the sourdough starter for – sourdough bread! I’ve tried a couple of recipes – one that my friend Paul sent me from a cookbook he has and another from the Pioneer Women website. My last couple of loaves from the latter recipe didn’t rise as much as I would have liked (despite passing the “float test” that indicates that the starter is active enough). But I think sourdough is just fussy – temperature, humidity, so many things can affect it! I think I’ll just keep practicing and maybe try out a few other recipes this year.

Sourdough Bread
Loaf with a pretty leaf-like pattern. It kind of spread a bit more than I wanted near the one side, but overall it looked nice and tasted so good.
Sourdough
Slices of bread
Sourdough bread
Pi symbol carved into the top. I was particularly proud of this one!

Perhaps my goal for 2021 should be to blog about things as I go along, rather than leaving to the end of the year!

  1. I had run out about a week before the shortage happened, so was able to find a 20 lb bag in my grocery store and had bought that. Someone did laugh at me walking down the street with a 20 lb bag of flour over my shoulder as I brought it home, but when I heard that all the grocery stores were out of flour about a week later, I thought “whose laughing now?” []

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